14th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic/OLR, NOLA
Bakers bake cakes and pies. Florists arrange flowers. Firefighters fight fires. Doctors and nurses heal the sick. What do prophets do? If you had to write out a job description for a prophet, what would you say? “The prophet is primarily responsible for walking around the neighborhood, shouting 'Repent! The End is Near.' Must provide own animal-skin garments and locusts and honey. Good hygiene optional.” That's our image of the prophet, right? The lonely soul, wandering the streets, yelling at tourists and stinking up the place. We read about them in Scripture, of course. God calls them go out and warn people about their sin and their coming doom. Most of the time they are ignored and God punishes the wicked fair and square. They were warned after all. But here we are in 2018, and we're pretty sure that prophets are a thing of the past. God no longer calls out individuals to speak His word of truth, to foretell the destruction of a city or a nation b/c of sin. God no long uses a single human voice to put us back on the correct path. No, He doesn't use a single voice. He uses all our voices – the bold, prophetic voices of the baptized, the Church. You and me, generations of Christians past and those to come.
The singular purpose of the Church is to serve as the sacrament of salvation for all mankind – an outward sign, a visible manifestation of God's mercy to sinners. The Church is not – as Pope Francis has said – a religious non-governmental social service organization; the Church is not a social club or a business network or a non-profit political action committee. The Church is the Body of Christ on earth. And we – the baptized – are the Church's priests, prophets, and kings. As priests we meditate God's mercy, His grace. As Kings, we stand to inherit His kingdom, eternal life. And as prophets, we carry His saving Word into the world so that all those with ears to hear and eyes to see can hear and see His enduring love through our words and deeds. The prophets of the Old Testament served a specific purpose at a specific time. God chose them individually to say what needed to be said in order to bring sinners back to righteousness. Christ's death and resurrection and our baptism into his death and resurrection make each one of us carriers of his Word, his mission, and his ministry. You are a prophet of God. And you have work to do.
As men and women baptized into the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus, we have vowed to be faithful to God, just to our neighbors, hopeful in crisis, loving to all, joyful even as we mourn, and as eager to show mercy as we are to seek mercy for ourselves. The key to our lives as prophets is not moral do-goodism or institutional credentials. Our prophetic key is humility – the certain and daily-lived knowledge that we are creatures of a loving God, wholly dependent, utterly reliant on the Love that gave us and gives us life. There is no other source of identity for us. No other means of doing what we have vowed our lives to do. Ezekiel is consumed in the voice of God. Paul is plagued by a thorn in his flesh. Jesus himself is rejected by his hometown folks. Their humility fuels a righteous fire for God's justice not a self-righteous grudge against the status-quo, not a self-serving envy for what is not theirs. Self-anointed prophets in lab coats, expensive suits, or liturgical vestments might tempt us with a scientific or political or spiritual utopia, but we know that any prophet who will not and cannot say, “Thus says the Lord God...,” we know that they are false prophets. They are not of God; they do not speak His Word.
If you will fulfill your vow to be a prophet of God, you will be faithful, just, hopeful, joyful, and loving. You will speak the Truth and do the Good. You will set aside self-righteous anger, envy, and pride. And most importantly, you will be the Father's mercy to sinners.
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